03 October 2013

Bennett's Dinosaur Birthday Party

Bennett turned four years old on September 30th.  To celebrate Bennett's fourth birthday, he chose a dinosaur theme and asked to have his party at the park ("where there is a slide, mama").  

Most of the time in Texas, it's gorgeous outside.  But for the second year in a row, it rained on Bennett's birthday party day.  So, at the last minute, we moved Bennett's party from outside to the backside of our church.

Designed for worship, our church is a bit dark inside so my pictures didn't turn out as well as they might have had the party been outside.  But, it was kinda cool to feel like the party was being held in a dark "dinosaur cave."  We made the best of it. :)

My sister Brooklyn did a great job helping me decorate.  She is always so good at this kind of stuff!

 "Happy Dino Birthday" sign - up and ready to go!

Dinosaur themed yum-yums!

At first, we had planned to keep Bennett's party guest list small, preferably limited to 4 of his friends.  However, it became clear in no time that too many people love and connect with Bennett to not invite them to his party.  So, we invited a combination of his friends from school and church, their siblings and some of our friends' kids. :)

It was a lot of fun to have so many children.  It may have been a bit like herding a bunch of cats at times but the preschoolers all seemed to really enjoy their time.  And, most importantly, Bennett thoroughly enjoyed having soooo many friends there!

Since we didn't have a playground to keep the kids entertained, I decided to search Pinterest for some cute dinosaur games.  One of the cutest games I found suggested putting a balloon around each child's ankle and, with the start of the music, letting them try to pop each other's balloons.

 It took only all of about 30 seconds in to the game before I realized, "wait!  Three and four year-olds don't like popping balloons!!!"  My biggest clue?  I looked up and saw about a third of the kids holding their ears out of fear of loud popping sounds.  (Oh, and to make matters worse, did I mention the room we were in echoed alot?)

The good thing is it turned out that the 3 and 4 year-olds were too tiny to pop each other's balloons anyway.  So, within a few minutes, myself and another mother were cutting the balloons off the kids ankles and just letting them play with them!  Whew!  No popped balloons and no tears! :)

Thankfully, we had another game ready to go after the balloon fiasco.  The kids really enjoyed hitting the pinata.  Each of the 3 and 4 year-olds had a few turns to try.   We didn't have a tree to hang the pinata on so Brian had to hold the pinata out using a dowel.  Kudos to daddy for holding the pinata up for so long! :)

Despite that every 3 and 4 year old at the party took a turn, none of the kids were able to break open the pinata.  So, it was great when 9 year old Judah was finally able to to knock the candy out!

Sweet friends Myles and Parker.  (Bennett's shirt was a gift from my talented friend Kristin who hand made his shirt to match the sweet little dinosaur on his invitation.)

After the games, it was cake time.  Bennett's adorable birthday cake was given to him as a gift from our friend Paola, a very talented baker in town.   Paola knows Bennett's birthdays are very special so it is her way of making sure that day is even more delightful.

Bennett just *loved* his dinosaur birthday cake and will most definitely talk about it all year long.  In fact, he still loves talking about last year's birthday cake Paola made. :)

Make a wish!!

Of course, the children really loved getting a party favor bag.  Each tiny bag was labeled with the child's "dinosaur name" (a version of their own name) and inside held a tiny plastic dinosaur, a dinosaur tattoo and a fun-sized bag of M&Ms.  (I am so very thankful to Kristin for helping me at the last minute to get the party favor bags completed. I hadn't realized how difficult it is to do things at the last minute now that I have three children, one of which is an infant.  :))  

When it comes to raising our kiddos, Brian and I try very intentionally to minimize the need for "more stuff."  It's hard to do in our own lives as well as in the lives of our children.  But, in an effort to help our children to not become "entitled" or "spoiled", we decided to place "no gifts, please" on this year's invitation.  It was a hard decision because typically we do appreciate our children getting gifts.  Receiving birthday gifts is one of the most fun parts of having a birthday party.  And we think receiving birthday gifts is a great way to train our children how to accept a gift graciously (and learn how to write thank you notes).  But, with such a big guest list, we thought so many gifts would not be in line with our desire to cultivate appreciation and humbleness in our children.  So, we spoke with Bennett beforehand and explained he would get plenty of presents from me, daddy and his grandparents but that his friend's gifts would be their coming to his party.  He was ok with that, as long as he was going to get some presents (which he did).

A few friends brought a gift anyway (which was very kind - Bennett received them and wholeheartedly embraced them).  But one of the unexpected things I LOVED that came out of our "no gifts" request was the number of sweet little children who brought Bennett hand-written cards and pictures as their own personal gifts.  I loved getting to see the gifts that each child put their heart in to.  And I loved watching Bennett open each card with the same amount of interest as he would have had they given him a toy.  It melted my mama heart.

There was another surprise that was particularly touching to receive.  One of Bennett's little classmates gave him a birthday card.  When he opened it after the party, I found his classmate's family had written a note inside that said that they had donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on behalf of Bennett's birthday.  That was really meaningful surprise to receive.  As my CF friend Josh Mogren best said when he wrote me shortly after I posted on Facebook that Bennett "had made it to four years old": "He's going to "make it" to A LOT MORE birthdays.  Trust me, this ain't no countdown.  It's a count up!"  In light of Bennett's birthday, I am SO appreciative to all those in Bennett's Brigade who give financially to the CF Foundation so we can continue to "count up" Bennett's birthdays each year.

 Happy Birthday, Bennett!!  It is hard to believe how much our life has changed in the last four years.  You continue to teach us what it means to live life to the fullest every day!  We love you, big boy!!

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